Handling Household Hazardous Waste

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With spring in the air and temperatures warming up, it’s always a good feeling to get a fresh start and lighten the load of “stuff”. Before you take your unused items straight to the dump, consider the tips below to make sure our waterways stay protected.

With clothes or personal items, you can easily bring them to Goodwill or any thrift store. But what about that left over paint? Or the dead batteries that have been collecting dust? Or the used car fluids and oils that you changed? All of these things can seem daunting to get rid of, and you don’t want to throw them in the trash knowing they will just sit in a landfill, or pour them down the drain knowing they can harm wildlife as well as our water supply.

To get a better idea of how to handle hazardous waste, Rivive! met with Bob Fletcher, Environmental Consultant of The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Division of Solid Waste Management.

Hazardous Household Waste and Our Water

Household hazardous waste (HHW) is a term used to describe any products in the home that are; corrosive, flammable, reactive, or toxic. This can include medications, batteries, oils, anti-freeze, cleaners, pesticides, paints, varnish stripper, grease and more!

These items are typically safe to have in the household when stored and used properly, but many can be harmful to the environment when not disposed of properly. For example, medications that get flushed down the toilet have been a concern to water quality for some time as they are known to pass through water treatment systems, enter rivers and streams, and negatively impact aquatic life.

What’s another common culprit of water pollution? Oil.

Bob tells us that just one gallon of oil has the potential to contaminate 1,000,000 gallons of water! Oil can prevent oxygen from getting to plants and animals that live in the water, threaten their habitat, and is very difficult to clean up! So, isn’t it safer to put things in the trash?

Unfortunately, HHW can be just as harmful when sitting in a landfill as it can being disposed of down the drain. Toxic chemicals from the waste can leach down to contaminate ground water.

Disposing of Household Hazardous Waste

If you live in Nashville, you are in luck, there are two permanent facilities that accept household hazardous waste. Those locations, hours, and list of accepted items can be found here! Residents can bring up to 15 gallons or 100 pounds of household waste for free each month.

Unused or expired pharmaceuticals can be brought to the Metro Police Precincts for proper disposal. To search any item you may be looking to get rid of, and where to bring it, we like to use Earth911.

The Household Hazardous Waste Mobile Collection Program

The Household Hazardous Waste Mobile Collection Program, created by TDEC, allows state-wide access to proper hazardous waste facilities. Paid through TDEC grants to individual counties, these sites are a practical stand-in for permanent facilities in areas that don’t have viable options for disposing of household hazardous waste.

The facility’s structure is made from a single shipping container, allowing the building to be a more affordable and quicker option for a county than finding funds to build a permanent facility. Since these facilities are quick to install, residents can dispose of their chemicals sooner!

Each site is equipped with enclosed Department of Transportation specification barrels around the inside parameter of the facility to collect 10-12 different household hazardous waste hazard classes, with each appropriate safety precautions in place to reduce any fires, spills, or contamination. To reduce any additional concerns, two passive air vents are located at the top of the container allowing proper airflow in addition to a fire extinguisher located inside.

Training is given to all staff members so they have proper instructions to manage the facilities safety. Only staff is allowed inside the facility, but residents can do their part ahead of time to create a smooth experience.


When can you use this program?

Expanding throughout the state of Tennessee, TDEC has planned multiple collection events (see image below) located in already established Disposal Convenience Centers. If you are a Tennessee resident and live in a household, you’re all set! The goal of these facilities is to “increase convenience, education, understanding directions, safety of the home and workers in the solid waste arena.”

Make the Commitment to Shop Smarter!

For homeowners, it is important to buy only what you need and use what you buy, helping reduce the amount of waste going into these facilities. "In lieu of disposing of your unused cleaning supplies, try sharing with a neighbor and find other opportunities to dispose of the chemicals ", Bob says.

Be sure to read the label of the items you purchase so you are aware how to properly use and store the product without causing unseen harm to your family, pets, and your environment. In addition, to ensure the safety of the staff at the collection sites, keep the chemicals in their original containers. If you must transfer the chemicals into another container, label the new container so everyone is aware of what’s inside. Bob recommends putting the chemicals in the vehicle the day that you are bringing it to the site so no fumes or spills escape into the vehicle.

Nashville's Household Hazardous Waste Drop-Off Locations

Find Out More Info:

If you have more questions regarding how to properly dispose of your hazardous waste please visit TDEC's program website here or contact Bob Fletcher at bob.fletcher@tn.gov.

For more ways you can directly contribute to the protection of Nashville's waterways, be sure to take the One Degree Pledge , visit www.onedegreepledge.com


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